Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Grief, Chapter One

     Aside from the obvious the one thing I really hate about death is that all traces of the person disappear.
     And it doesn’t take long either. 

     Gone, like dust in the wind. When the dead person’s name is mentioned people cast their eyes downward, as if they’re looking for the person on top of their shoes or somewhere on the sidewalk.  Say the name of the dead person out loud to someone and they respond in hushed tones, like they’re talking about something or someone shameful or embarrassing. 

     Pictures might stick around for a while but eventually they’ll be put away, too painful to keep in plain sight. Personal belongings are put away in boxes that are mainlined for a closet or attic never to be brought out and gone through again. Sometimes Left Behind People even give the dead person’s stuff away to Goodwill or the Salvation Army or some anonymous organization that has drop boxes in the parking lot of the local supermarket where some strangers will wind up with the dead person’s favorite sweater or shoes, maybe even with their scent still clinging to it. This makes me very uncomfortable.  

     I hope no one gave your stuff away.  I hope it’s in a box in the attic and sometimes someone sneaks up there when no one else is around just so they can open your box and spend some time with you. 

     I have not been able to figure out how to get them to believe me when I tell them how wrong it is to act like dead people never existed.  Of course, I’m the crazy girl who thinks that dead people are still here; that you just can’t see them in the flesh anymore.  I’m the one who wouldn’t think twice about continuing to set a place for the dead people at the dinner table or even to talk out loud to them but that kind of thing is seriously frowned upon in polite society.  The thing is though, that everyone does it to one degree or another, they just don’t admit it which is a really big shame. 

     What I don’t get is why people let the love they had for the dead person turn into sadness. I mean, I understand grief. Well, that’s kind of an understatement. There’s not a lot of people who understand grief better than me.  It’s been my constant companion for decades now.  I take it everywhere I go kind of like a best friend. Or, a frenemy. I don't think it's very nice that a person spends their lifetime - however long or short it is - doing things and having conversations and making people laugh or maybe they made really good chocolate cakes or gave great hugs or would not give up those corduroy pants they wore long after they went out of style. Whatever it was, whatever they were, it seems to me that it is a downright travesty to sweep all of that under the rug, never talk about any of it, and instead get sad whenever they are thought or spoken about. Makes it seem like their life didn't have much meaning or substance which is the absolute furthest thing from the truth.

     Anyway, since I live with grief all the time and I have watched its effects on myself and others for years, I know how it works. Or how it wants to work.  Grief is always there even when no one has died.  It sleeps in the background of everyone’s life as they are preoccupied with living. Grief is the boogey man and the bully rolled into one. Once grief wakes up, it bangs on your door and if you let it in it will lay on your couch, dine at your table, sleep in your bed, drive in your car, brush with your toothbrush, and invade your thoughts, your attention span, your very ability to think.  

     Like a squatter, grief moves in uninvited and stays for as long as it likes and everyone seems powerless to do anything about it.  Sometimes it stays for an acceptable period of time and leaves.  But don’t be fooled, it will never be very far away.  It just goes back to sleep, albeit fitfully, in the backyard or the garage or the basement. 

     And sometimes it goes and hides in the closet after wreaking havoc and comes back out years later when it’s the last thing you ever expected. 

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